Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
-- Isaiah 61:7
Cleft lips and similar deformities are true curses in the developing world. For example, babies in Uganda that are born with clefts are named "Ajok," which literally means "cursed by God." These youngsters often face lives filled with shame, isolation and abandonment.
The story goes that a doctor was driving through Kibati, Kenya, when he spotted a man on a bicycle. What quickly became evident was that the man had a cleft lip. The doctor pulled over, exited his vehicle and introduced himself as Githinji Gatahi. Dr. Gatahi explained that he worked for an international organization called Smile Train. And it could arrange for the surgical repair of the bicyclist's cleft lip at no charge.
The bicyclist--named Peter--responded that he had heard about this remarkable bargain but always assumed there was a catch. Dr. Gatahi assured him that the surgery was indeed free because generous donors from around the world had already covered the cost. A few days later, the physician and his team drove their patient to the hospital. And within hours, an awestruck Peter stared at himself in the mirror. His cleft lip--the impairment that had plagued him for more than 30 years--was mended. And all it took was his willingness to accept Dr. Gatahi's offer for the free (but costly) gift.
"The words that keep ringing in my mind are that I don't believe it's for free...and yet I could never afford it," Peter said.
"It just shows how many people we still need to reach out there," added Dr. Gatahi. "Luckily, people like Peter become real ambassadors for Smile Train."
In modern industrialized nations like ours, we can be thankful that most babies with clefts don't face such societal rejection. However, we've all been born with a sin defect that will lead to spiritual death and eternal isolation from God if someone doesn't pay for its repair. And the fact is that we can never pay that price: the one we rightfully owe for all the bad decisions, broken relationships and damage we've wrought throughout our lives. The only way to solve this humanly impossible dilemma was for Jesus (known as The Great Physician) to pay for it himself by dying on a cross: a spectacle of ultimate humiliation and shame. Jesus didn't deserve to be there. But God loved us so much that he was willing to pay an incredible price just so we could avoid eternity in Hell and instead live with him in joy.
Like Dr. Gatahi's patient who stared in amazement at his repaired cleft, we too find such generosity difficult to grasp. But it's true. The high price for our salvation--one that we could never repay--was covered through Jesus' sacrificial death. Our shame is now gone because God remembers our sins no more. And with our lives newly transformed, our response should be to accept this remarkable gift with gratitude...and become active ambassadors for our Creator and his Good News.